Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Two Track

Bob Moody is a dear friend and fellow pastor who has an amazing gift in writing. I've been receiving his e-mail devotions for the past several months, all of which have been a great blessing. The one posted below was particularly powerful. If you have been blessed, I urge you to contact him and subscribe.

The Two-Track

Where I live there are countless roads through the woods that we refer to as “two-tracks”. The road commission refers to many of these as “seasonal roads”. Two-tracks receive very little if any upkeep and are not plowed in the winter. Unlike a path or trail two-tracks can be traveled in a vehicle. That is where their name comes from—the two tracks left by tires. I would recommend a pickup truck instead of a car especially one with low suspension. You better have a pretty good idea of where you are going because there are no road signs on two-tracks unless you count the occasional code number for snowmobiles. Two-tracks are better than trails but it must be remembered that they have limited value because they are very seasonal.


Many Christians are like the two-track. Oh their life is much easier to follow to Jesus than the path. Jesus is much more visible in their life witness and verbal witness. However, like the two-track they are pretty seasonal. They kind of pick and choose what parts of the biblical demands they will surrender to. I know some people who are very faithful in their giving. They will even mail their check into the church when they aren’t there (which may be quite often). On the other hand they may be very faithful to church attendance but give nothing to the Lord’s work. Strong drink might not ever cross their lips but strong gossip does every day. They might never watch anything that is sexually suggestive but will fill their minds with blasphemous, gory slasher films. They may pray regularly but never open their Bible.


Come into contact with them during the right “season” and you may very well see Jesus. The wrong season you could simply be stuck in the woods for a long, long time.


Lord, I want to be more than a seasonal believer. I want to be your witness in and out of season. Amen.


Copyright 2009 Robert A. Moody

Permission is granted to use this devotion in its entirety with the understanding that it not be edited, altered or sold. If you have questions or comments please contact Bob at joy@nmo.net.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Does Satan Exist?

Does Satan Exist?
The Nightline Faceoff

Mark Driscoll faces off against three other panelists regarding the existence of Satan and evil. I loved the way Mark brought everything back to Christ and the cross.

You can watch the entire thing online here.


JG

Saturday, March 28, 2009

PCRT Conference

I am currently attending the PCRT Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The pre-conference on John Calvin was excellent, and last night kicked-off the main conference. The theme this year is Justification by Faith Alone. So far, the sessions have been excellent. Sadly, there is no wireless at the host church , so I cannot live blog (the host church is staunchly CRC and perhaps views all things technilogical as inherently evil....jk).

So...its back to paper and pen as I take notes. My hand is cramping because I haven't written more than 2 sentences by hand in years.

A few bummers and let-downs:

A. No free books (except one that is really more of a wordy pamphlet). Yes, T4G has forever turned me into a pampered whiner with a sense of entitlement.

B. The in-conference booktable/bookstore had a very low selection. I come to these things to buy books. As Providence would have it, however, Reformation Heritage Bookstore offered a 50% sale of RHB & SDG titles at their store for all wearing a PCRT conference badge.

C. No meals. I would have hoped that $125 would have at least bought me a boxed lunch, but no such luck. The conference was a bit pricey.

D. Those who registered early were penalized. I registered ahead of time thinking I would avoid a higher at-the-door cost. But a buddy of mine registered at the door for $30 less. OK, I realize my complaining is just about out-of-control, but that is money that could have bought a good hardcover Puritan book.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

J. L. Reynolds on Infant Baptism


Mark Dever has stirred up some controversy about a recent post in which he referred to infant baptism as a "sin". To demonstrate his commit to the "bond of peace" among Christ's Body, Dever has provided a wonderful quote from J. L. Reynolds:

"On the subject of infant baptism, and what seems to me to be its legitimate tendencies, I have recorded my sentiments without reserve, and, I trust, without offence. I impeach no man's motives; nor do I question the piety and sincerity of those of my Christian brethren who believe that the practice is sanctioned by divine command. Many pedobaptists are among the lights and ornaments of the age; their ministry has been blessed of God to the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, and their Churches present numerous examples of pure and unaffected piety. Such men would not, knowingly, contravene the law of Christ. They would welcome the obloquy of the world, and even the agonies of martyrdom, in obedience to the command of their Lord and King, and rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ's sake. It is impossible not to admire and love men whose faith and practice associate them with Baxter, Leighton, Edwards, and Martyn, and who breathe their heavenly spirit. While I think I see and regret their errors, I would extend to them the same indulgence which I ask for my own..."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Faithless Fruit of Infant Baptism

The Faithless Fruit of Infant Baptism

Recently my wife approached me with a dilemma. She had struck up a conversation with a friend in the community who attended another church. This woman had recently had a baby and her pastor was urging her to have the child baptized. Keep in mind my wife and I try very hard not to undermine another pastor's credibility. Our general practice is to refer them back to their clergyman for a conversation. Yet in this situation the young woman pressed my wife. She said, "from what I've been reading in the Bible, baptism is for adults who have made Jesus Lord of their life. My child can't do that so why should she be baptized?"

Good question. As a committed Baptist who affirms the New Testament teachings and examples of the practice of baptism, I reject the concept of infant baptism. This is not to say that I have no sympathy for what padeobaptists are attempting to accomplish. Yet in their earnest desire to maintain a covenant view of family they have irresponsibly redefined Christ's ordinance of baptism (and as such, have unintentionally undermined the Gospel). By baptizing generations of children who have not confessed Christ as Savior, padeobaptists have turned a personal relationship with Christ into an impersonal (and formal) religious system.

Recently the BBC ran a story that demonstrates what I believe to be the ugly effects of padeobaptism. John Hunt, an atheist who was baptized as an infant in the Anglican Church, is seeking to be "debaptized". He has criticized the practice of baptizing children who are "too young to decide for themselves whether they wanted this formal initiation into Christianity." Unable to remove his name from the historical Church baptism records, he resorted to issuing his own statement. Working with the National Secular Society, Hunt devised a formal procedure for cancelling baptism called a "Certificate of Debaptism". In part, the statement says: "I, John Geoffrey Hunt, having been subjected to the rite of Christian baptism in infancy... hereby publicly revoke any implications of that rite. I reject all its creeds and other such superstitions...".

This isn't simply the rantings of one angry atheist. The Certificate of Debaptism has been downloaded over 60,000 times. As Western society grows increasingly secular such reactions against the church are unavoidable. Yet I cannot help but feel as if our very church practices have produced this lamentable situation. Deitrich Bonhoeffer once famously remarked, "The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organized Church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost. We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale, we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation unasked and without condition."

Ultimately, any system which disconnects the gospel from a radical, personal and informed decision to follow Christ will eventually breed a culture that is inherently secular. However well intended our Covenantal friends may be, the practice of infant baptism will continue to produce faithless fruit.


JG

Friday, March 20, 2009

Faithless parenting...


"a generation arose in Israel that did not know the Lord"
Judges 2:10


According to a recent study by Lifeway Research, only 14% of evangelical parents consider faith in Christ to be a significant success indicator for their children (keep in mind that not too long ago another study was released that indicated 88% of evangelical youths abandon the faith by the time they leave college. Rick Phillips recently lamented that "whatever evangelical faith is, it must not be very impressive if we can only pass it on to 12% of our own children").

Having recently preached through chapters 4-6 of Ephesians I find it significant that the Spiritual warfare section comes immediately after Paul's discussion of the family. Parents rightly recognize that parenting successfully is difficult, but wrongly fail to recognize the spiritual battle that is taking place within their family. Selma Wilson, author and organizer of the study, says while most parents want to be successful when it comes to parenting, most do not seek input from the most important resource. "Parents do not see the Bible as a key tool in how to parent," she laments. "And only...around 14 percent of parents equated success with a faith relationship with God."

"All of life should be integrated faith," she exclaims. "We should talk about God all the time -- in a natural way, in a way that's just as common as getting up, going to bed, and doing life. That was the point that we wanted to make, and God's Word tells us how to do life."

Eighty-six percent of Evangelical parents do not equate a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as being an indicator of success in their adult child. That is almost 9 out of 10!

If Christ is not Lord of our parenting and our family conversations, can we dare try to claim He is Lord of our hearts and lives?

JG

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chick-Fil-A

I have not been posting for a while, mainly because of a big remodeling project going on at my church. But I stumbled across this video, which brought back fond memories of my years in the deep South as a child. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Family Devotions: A How-To Guide


Family Devotions:
A How-To Guide


In my last post on this topic, I lamented the lack of consistent family devotions in Evangelical homes. For those who are just starting to do these, here are some tips to help you along the way:

1. A KISS for the Kids: (Keep it Simple Socrates). Make sure your devotions are on a level suitable for your family. You don't have to go out and write new material and certainly do not read from some great pastor or theologian from the past (yes, I mean put down your Spurgeon books). For starters, grab an Our Daily Bread or Keys for Kids. Read a portion of scripture, read the devotional, add some comments, and pray together.

2. Involvement is the Key: (Have everyone verbally participate). Two things are important here: (1) Have each member of the family take turns reading from the Bible and praying. This teaches them the daily discipline of connecting with God. (2) Don't just lecture to your family--ask them open-ended questions. Get them thinking and talking--even the little ones.

3. On Your Feet: (Stand when reading scripture). No, I am not being legalistic here. I realize there is no Biblical command nor will your family be struck with fire and brimstone if you happen to sit while reading. My reasons are more pragmatic: As a parent you are trying to install in your children two things: (1) that God is approachable, and (2) that God is to be revered and feared. Standing while reading the Bible communicates something serious and noteworthy is taking place.

4. Cowboy Up: (Dad, be the spiritual role model). The responsibility to spiritual shepherd the family falls upon both spouses--but biblically the father/husband is to take a lead role. The devotions in far too many homes are being led by wives/mothers because the Dads have checked out spiritually. Dad, you are irreplaceable. No mother, no church, no well-meaning Christian male friend can fill the role God has placed you in as father. Your wife is your equal partner, but you are the spiritual leader.

5. Swim in Both Sides of the Pool: (Use both testaments of the Bible). The Old Testament is filled with thrilling redemptive stories and the New Testament is stuffed with precious propositional truths. Allow your family to be thoroughly exposed to both. We generally spend a month or so in the Old Testament and then about a month in the New Testament.

6. Feed from Your Faucet: (Maintain regular personal devotions). You can only give what your getting. If your spirituality is near-lifeless it is crazy to expect that your family will become spiritually vibrant: they will not. Grab Spurgeon or some other favoirte devotional. Get alone for a few minutes each day for some personal Bible reading. Write down key thoughts and spend some time communicating with God. Be even more committed to your personal devotions.

7. The Consistent Bird Gets the Worm: (Be committed for the long haul). From prior experience I have found that getting away from family devotions even for a few days can somehow mysteriously turn into a few weeks, then a few months, etc. Holidays, school programs, family visits, and a host of other things can cause interuptions. The number one rue has to be consistency. Make this a non-negotiable daily priority.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Using Greek & Hebrew in the Pulpit

Should a pastor ever use Greek or Hebrew in the pulpit? Is there ever a time when it is appropriate to say "In the Greek this word means..."? Pastors, academics, and laypersons have debated this for years. Those in favor of the idea cite the need for greater clarity and the wealth of nuanced meaning available; those opposed believe it creates an authoritative tone and perhaps even undermines the average layman's confidence in the English translation.

In what may come as a surprise to many, the renowned Greek scholar Bill Mounce agrees with the naysayers. Over at the Koinonia blog he writes, "I encourage my students to never say, "In the Greek …." Why would you do that? To impress the audience with your academic acumen? To convince them that you are right when you can’t prove your point with biblical logic? Perhaps I am being a little harsh, but I am sensitive to pastors claiming to be an authority and putting themselves up on a pedestal. That’s not where servants belong."

For those of you tempted to point out Mounce's (unfortunate) use of Ad Hominem argumentation, I should note that some times pastors do use Greek or Hebrew simply to impress their audience. However, most men that I know are sincerly attempting to shed light on God's Word, and on this point perhaps Mounce has been rather uncharitable. After all, it could just as easily be claimed that most of the naysayers are ignorant of Greek and Hebrew and are just jealous of those that know it. Jealousy is a nasty little vermin that growls and bites (but then again, so is pride).

Ultimately the issue isn't about the pastor's motivation. We should hear Mounce's challenge but at the end of the day this is a heart issue, and we can never see inside another pastor's heart. The real issue before us is whether or not referring to Greek or Hebrew is wise in and of itself.

In a follow up post, Mounce shares the following story & principle: "Before the ESV was available, I used another translation that was a little freer in its translation philosophy. There were two Sundays in a row where I had to correct its interpretation to make what I thought was the true point of the passage. After the service a new Christian came to me and asked, "Can I not trust my Bible?" Ouch! So here is one of the big no-noes from the pulpit. Do not correct the English Bible. Ever! Never say, "the translators got this wrong." The damage you can do to a person’s trust in Scripture is unimaginable."

Any pastor who is considering refering to the original language should stop and re-read the above paragraph. While I believe Mounce is too rigid in his principle, the reality is that we can do immense spiritual damage to young, weak, or intellectually limited believers. Despite our intentions, frequent or unwise appeals to Greek/Hebrew can undermine confidence in the Bible these individuals hold in their hands.

Three years ago I would have adamately disagreed with Mounce. But now, almost three years into a senior pastorate, I have moved closer to Mounce's position. An excellent example of what Mounce is saying can be found in the sermons of John Calvin. Though Calvin readily interacts with the biblical languages in his commentaries, he rarely (if ever) does so in his sermons. He finds a way of expressing the same idea without appealing to the language.

I personally do not believe pastors appeal to the language due to pride. Instead, I think the issue is laziness. It is simply easier. Taking something that is somewhat technical and bringing it down to street level is incredibly difficult. Frankly, I can put together an exegetically precise sermon with profound doctrinal depth in a matter of hours. But it takes me three times longer to take that material and turn it into something that will appropriately engage the people in the pew. It is this second part that I find so difficult. The exegsis comes naturally....making the sermon practical is where things become difficult.

Still, I am convinced that there are times when using Greek and Hebrew words are important. They are a handful of key biblical words that I want my people to know, and once in a while the pastor will be forced to bring clarity (particularly when the various versions differ wildly on a particular verse). Mounce recognizes that same thing when he writes, "maybe I am a little harsh on this point. I remember after one sermon my older son Tyler saying to me, 'Dad, I would like it better if you would actually teach us some of the Greek words and what they mean.' And in a recent sermon series I did teach two Hebrew words, 'Yahweh' and 'hesed.'"

FULL DISCLOSURE:
1. I believe it is important to occasionally refer to Greek & Hebrew.
2. I believe I do it more than is necessary, and recognize the need to further develop the skill in preaching in a practical, non-heady manner.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

DISCERNING EVANGELICALISM - Family Devotions


For the past 6 years I've been gathering data on family devotions. Having served in two church bodies and with a couple para-church ministries, I've come into contact with several hundred Christian families (and about 100 families quite closely). With most of those families I eventually asked one very important question: Do you have regular, daily devotions with your family?

The answers are generally variations of 'no'. Surprisingly, most of the time I receive an honest and straightforward "no". Sometimes I get "yes...well, not really daily; but once in a while". Others reach deep for excuses such as "my work schedule doesn't allow it" or "I tried and the kids were not interested". A few times I've heard "I'm not the pastor...you are" (assuming I guess that it was my job to go to their home and lead in devotions).

I'll not bore readers with statistics, nor take the trouble of linking you to them. All of us have heard the heart-breaking figures that suggest 80% or more of Evangelical children will walk away from the Christian faith by their first year of college. The Emergent guys and the Church-planting groups are quick to blame the established church. The assumption here is that if the traditional church had only been more "post-modern", entertaining, or culturally sensitive then we would not lose so many young adults.

This is not to say the church shouldn't be more sensitive to the culture. But I object to laying the blame at the feet of the institution that has the least influence over the child. Certainly the church has some influence--and well it should. But God's intention was that the family is to have to major influence over the child's life.

Why are so many children walking away from the faith? It's not because your church's music wasn't cool enough, or because your pastor insists on wearing a suit coat and tie while preaching (though how I long to be able to preach in blue jeans....). It is certainly not because the sermon is almost 45 minutes long or because the coffee in the foyer is the cheap Walmart variety.

Why are so many children walking away from the faith? It is because their families have silently taught them that God has no place in their daily life. No devotions, no prayer, no discussion, no scripture memorization or reading. Their parents have taught them that 6 days of their week can be godless, and the child eventually chooses to make the 7th godless as well.

In my next post, I'll explore a few simply steps parents can take to implement family devotions in their home.